Just as the tornado and tragedy that struck Apison in 2011 brought the community together, the destruction of the memorial erected in its wake will also have a silver lining, if Bill Hullander has anything to say about it.
The Apison Tornado Memorial, which was put up in 2012 and cost nearly $20,000, lies in several pieces after a suspected drunk driver crashed his car into the monument two weeks ago.
According to a news release, deputies with the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office arrived at the scene at 10200 East Brainerd Road shortly after 12:15 a.m. June 21. Deputies found a silver Acura RS6, driven by Frankie Parsons and containing Jesse Morris, who both refused transport to a hospital.
After failing a sobriety test, Parsons was taken into custody on a DUI charge, though the investigation is continuing.
Morris possessed marijuana and was arrested for possession of a firearm while intoxicated, authorities said.
"It's disappointing. It [the memorial] means a lot to folks who have family members on it, such as myself," said Hullander, who was in charge of the committee which initially erected the engraved monument following the tornado. He lost a cousin and friends to the powerful storm.
"Knowing that someone treated it like this is hard to handle."
Hullander said he's still waiting for information about Parsons' driver's insurance coverage, which could foot some of the bill for the monument. Regardless, Hullander said he's more determined than ever to use the misfortune as an opportunity to honor the community's suffering and the 15 who died as a result of the tornado.
An exact amount needed through fundraising to replace the memorial is not yet known, he said, but he anticipates an answer soon and hopes to have all the necessary funding secured so he can order the new monument later this summer.
To offset the anticipated costs, Hullander invites the community to take part in his upcoming monthly Redback Hymnal singing session Sunday, July 17 at his farm at 6 p.m. There, he said, a collection will be taken.
Additionally, The Samaritan Center will accept checks on behalf of the fundraiser. Those interested can make checks out to The Samaritan Center, specifying that the money is for the Apison Tornado Memorial.
"We want it as nice or better than it was before," Hullander said, adding, "It's kind of like the tornado. Folks went through that and lost a lot, but the area is greater than it was before. That's our goal for this monument, too."
Hullander Farm is located at 10944 London Lane. For more information or to donate outside of the hymnal singing session July 17, visit The Samaritan Center at 9231 Old Lee Highway.
Staff writer Emmett Gienapp contributed to this story.